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Nadhim Zahawi fired as U.K. Conservative Party chair over tax affairs


LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the chairman of his Conservative Party on Sunday following an ethics investigation into the chairman’s tax affairs, the latest headache for Sunak’s party, which is trailing badly in polls.

Nadhim Zahawi was dismissed over a “serious breach” of the ministerial code, which governs how ministers should behave, Sunak said in a letter to Zahawi.

The scandal is the latest in a string for Sunak’s Conservative Party, and despite the promise that a steadier hand is now in charge, allegations of “Tory sleaze” and mismanagement continue to dog the government.

Zahawi, a popular party figure, came under pressure for settling a multimillion-dollar unpaid tax bill while he was Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister. Zahawi was in charge of the country’s Treasury from July to September, in the final months of Boris Johnson’s tenure as prime minister.

Britain’s Rishi Sunak pulled into ‘Tory sleaze’ probes

In his letter to Zahawi on Sunday, Sunak said he made the decision because he had promised that his government would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” when he became prime minister late last year, during a particularly tumultuous time in British politics.

Sunak’s decision came after he ordered an independent ethics adviser to investigate Zahawi’s tax affairs. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Zahawi negotiated to settle his overdue tax payment with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the U.K. equivalent to the Internal Revenue Service, to pay millions of pounds in outstanding tax liabilities, plus a hefty penalty, during his stint as chancellor.

The tax bill in question was over the sale of shares in YouGov, the polling agency that Zahawi founded.

Sunak’s ethics adviser, Laurie Magnus, said in his verdict of the situation that Zahawi had not declared that his tax affairs were being investigated when Johnson had made him finance minister. The four-page report published on Sunday also said that Zahawi had failed to disclose details when Sunak made him chair of the Conservative Party.

Zahawi said the tax authority had concluded that there had been a “careless and not deliberate” error but also insisted that he was confident he had “acted properly throughout.”

Sunak initially stood by Zahawi. Now opposition politicians have questioned what the prime minister knew before appointing Zahawi to a senior job in the party.

The Labour Party’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said: “It’s vital that we now get answers to what Rishi Sunak knew and when did he know it. We need to see all the papers, not just have the Prime Minister’s role in this brushed under the carpet.”

William Booth contributed to this report.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.